Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I work with a lot of women, and it's beginning to be way too much with all the posing and weight loss competition going on. There is even a 65-year-old colleague who is in on the competition. They all claim different reasons for weight loss, but I know they are competing with each other. My manager has had lap band surgery, and her ego has gotten so big that I do not want to be in the same room as her. She is always sizing up the women next to her -- including me -- and talking about her weight loss. Another female co-worker who is almost 50 says she is going to start bodybuilding. There's nothing wrong with that except she won't stop asking people how much it looks like she's lost. She weighs in on a daily basis. The older woman reads all the labels of my food and tells me why I should not eat it.

I am tired of it all and happy with how I look. I eat in moderation and I walk, but I am not in competition with this crazy group -- I just like to breathe freely. I want this to all go away or not involve me. How do I do this without them thinking I am trying to one-up them or join their covert competition? -- Count Me Out, Washington, D.C.

DEAR COUNT ME OUT: That's a lot to take in on a daily basis! What you need is tunnel vision. You are going to have to figure out how to focus on your work in a laser-sharp manner, clearing your mind's eye of these women and their weight loss obsession. You can stop responding when they ask you questions or model before you. You can store your food in private and remove labels so that there is less ammunition for them to pick at. You can tell the woman who evaluates your food that you are not interested in her comments.

Mostly, though, do your job. When they slip into weight chat, walk away. Because they are so immersed in this discussion, chances are they may not even notice that you are not participating. If you need to say something, though, feel confident stating that you are not interested in being a part of that conversation. It doesn't matter what they think.

DEAR HARRIETTE: In my college writing class, there are at least two people who talk constantly in every two-hour session. I think they're nice people, but when it comes to the writing class, I need to concentrate. How should I approach them without hurting their feelings? -- Want to Learn, New York City

DEAR WANT TO LEARN: Can you move your seat away from these people? Position yourself as close to the teacher as you can. You can also ask them to lower their voices. State the obvious -- you can't hear the teacher when they are talking.